Jun 10, 2009, 5:18 AM EDT
Michael Jack Schmidt certainly hit a fair number of memorable homers amidst his 548 career longballs–hell, it'd probably be nigh on possible to hit that many anonymous home runs. But one of his all-time most memorable blasts might be one that ended up not even getting included in his official tally. Facing Houston Astros pitcher Claude Osteen in the top of the first, Schmidt slammed a pitch so high and far that everyone, including Houston center-fielder Cesar Cedeno, assumed it was going the distance. So titanic was the blast, however, that it hit off a public address speaker–measured at 329 feet from home plate, and 117 feet above the ground–and landed plum in the middle of centerfield. Larry Bowa and Dave Cash, on first and second at the time, advanced just a single base. Schmidt, midway through a home-run trot, was held to a mere single.
"I knew it was a good hit," said Schmidt after the game. "Running to first base, I realized it hit something up there. I didn't know what, but something. It all happened so fast. I wasn't really sure of the ground rule. What can pop into your mind at a time like that?" Meanwhile, Cedeno was probably even more stunned at the grandeur of the shot. "I knew the ball was going out, but I continued running because I wanted to see how far it would go," the centerfielder admitted. "I never saw a ball hit so far in my life." Schmidt concurred: "I'd like to have seen it go all the way, just to see how far it would've gone."(Experts conclude that the ball would've easily gone over 500 feet.)
Luckily, the "homer that wasn't" wound up having little effect on the overall result of that game in Houston. The Phillies would go on to take the contest easily, a 12-0 blowout featuring big hitting performances from Schmidt, centerfielder Bill Robinson and second basemen Dave Cash, as well as a complete game shutout performance from righty Jim Lonborg. Meanwhile, after a disappointing rookie season, Schmidt's epic one-bagger helped put him on the fast-track to superstardom, as it inspired a write-in campaign (spearheaded by a young Howard Eskin) which got him elected to his first ever All-Star game–a contest which asked for his presence 11 more times before all was said and done.
And really, what would have been so great about 549 anyway? I'll take 548 and the enduring legend, yeah.
(Thanks to William C. Kashatus's Mike Schmidt: Philadelphia's Hall of Fame Third Basemen biography for the assist with the quotes)
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